Paul Johnson heaps praise on David Sims

A little more than two weeks ago, Georgia Tech coach Paul Johnson offered something of a challenge/warning to B-back David Sims.

After the two-year starter had a productive morning in the team’s first scrimmage of preseason camp Aug. 10, Johnson said that Sims needed to do so because he had to “re-establish” his hold on the starting position over backups Zach Laskey and Broderick Snoddy.

Sims has apparently satisfied his coach’s directive. On Tuesday, at his first news conference of the season, Johnson tossed considerable praise at Sims, saying that he “has probably had as good a camp as anybody I can remember in a long time.” It was a considerable compliment from Johnson, who typically does not speak about players with such superlatives.

Sims began last season recovering from a stress fracture in his shin, but closed strong, gaining 331 yards in the final four games of the season.

“I’m really looking forward to watching him play,” Johnson said. “He’s healthy for the first time in a long time.”

After the team’s Tuesday practice, Sims took questions from Tech fans on the athletic department’s Twitter account. The first questions were posed by 2008 ACC player of the year Jonathan Dwyer, now with the Pittsburgh Steelers. Dwyer wanted to know who was better, former quarterback Joshua Nesbitt or Vad Lee, if Tech was going to have a 1,000-yard rusher — something it hasn’t had since 2010 — and if the 2013 team will be better than Dwyer’s 2009 ACC champion team.

Sims’ answers: Nesbitt, “but Vad has every opportunity to succeed,” yes and “That 2009 Georgia Tech team was very good, but I think we have a chance to be as good.”

Jeune a possibility: With only three scholarship wide receivers available for Saturday’s opener against Elon — Corey Dennis, DeAndre Smelter and Micheal Summers — Johnson said that coaches discussed the possibility of playing freshman Ricky Jeune, who had been expected to redshirt. Johnson was leaning against it. Darren Waller and Travin Henry are being held out of the game for violating team rules.

“When we get everybody back the next week, he would probably be down as maybe the No. 6 receiver, and I’m not sure we’d want to (burn his redshirt) if he’s not going to play more than that,” Johnson said.

This Saturday’s game withstanding, Johnson said he feels comfortable with the depth at the position, saying he hopes that Waller can follow in the footsteps of Calvin Johnson, Demaryius Thomas and Stephen Hill, and that Smelter “has a ton of ability.”

“When we get everybody out there, I think we can be as good as we’ve been at that position or better,” he said.

Johnson said that Dennis would probably start opposite Summers if Smelter didn’t practice Tuesday, which he did not. Smelter is recovering from an injury, but is expected to be available for Saturday.

Attaochu developing: Defensive line coach Mike Pelton said that, probably from the third or fourth day of preseason camp, defensive end Jeremiah Attaochu has “just been a different guy. It’s just been effort and pursuit and leadership. He really just took it and ran with it.”

Attaochu is a preseason All-ACC selection and made a number of award watch lists. Pelton doesn’t quibble with the praise.

Said Pelton, “Expecting big things out of him.”

Pelton is eager for the return of defensive tackle Shawn Green, who has been out all of the preseason recovering from a shoulder injury. Green could be ready for the Duke game Sept. 14 that follows an open date.

“I’m sure it’s exciting for him to get back and get back in the groove of things, but he’s got a lot of catching up to do,” Pelton said.

Etc.: Backup quarterback Justin Thomas was held out of practice with what appeared to be a leg injury, but is expected to play against Elon. No. 3 quarterback Tim Byerly is also a candidate to see playing time, particularly if the game gets out of hand. … Johnson said he thinks that Elon middle linebacker Jonathan Spain could play at the FBS level. Spain ranked third in the Southern Conference last season with 120 total tackles.

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